I loved having the chance to:
- Meet other writers. I can’t speak for other conferences, but everyone at SFWC was so kind and welcoming. It was easy to walk up to anyone and strike up a conversation. We arrived as strangers and left exchanging hugs. There’s a real community feeling to being among kindred spirits.
- Get a realistic but encouraging look at publishing. Nobody sugar-coated the fact that publishing is both easier and harder than ever now. It’s easier because, of course, self-publishing means there’s no barrier to entry. It’s harder because so many people are publishing books, which makes it more difficult for each book/writer to stand out. At the same time, all the speakers continued to be encourage us and tell us to just go for it without giving up hope.
- Meet agents and editors. Being able to meet agents and editors was an invaluably helpful experience. Their insight into the industry was informative. Besides, it was nice to be able to talk to them and make that personal connection that is so important in every field these days.
- Learn about self-publishing, indie publishing, and traditional publishing. SFWC did a great job of representing all three aspects of publishing by providing us with successfully self-published authors (i.e. Bella Andre and Guy Kawasaki), representatives of SmashWords and BookBaby (Mark Coker and Brian Felsen), agents, editors of small publishing houses, and editors of larger houses (such as Simon & Schuster).
- Be introduced to resources. Until the conference, I didn’t know that the branch of California Writers Club closest to me is only five minutes away from my house, for instance.
- Pitch (or practice pitching) to agents. This was really one of the best parts. I got to talk to agents one-on-one – if only for three minutes – and find out what they thought about my pitches and the novels I’m revising right now. (P.S. The response was good!)
- Get advice from a freelance editor. Although it was only ten minutes long, it was nice being able to ask my questions to an editor and get her advice about the first chapter of my novel.
- Learn about the craft and business about being a writer. How do you craft the best possible first chapter for your YA novel? What should a writer website look like? How do you find a critique group, and how should it function? What are some of the biggest myths about finding an agent? What are some myths about an agent’s job? How do you make your work resistent to rejection? How important is it to have a copyeditor if you’re self-publishing? All these questions and more were discussed at the conference.
- Assume responsibility for my desire to be a writer. Spending the time, effort, and energy to attend this conference has forced me to truly admit to myself that I want to be a serious writer. I’ve always loved writing, but this has made me accept that it’s something I really want to do.
- See R.L. Stine speak! I read Goosebumps obsessively as a kid. Getting the chance to see him in person was just incredible. One of my favorite moments was when I was just standing around, and I turned around to see him standing there.
Edit: This is a really great post about the conference.